Official denies Gadhafi headed to Venezuela

Published February 21, 2011

| Associated Press

Venezuela's information minister denied suggestions Monday that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was headed to this South American country.

Andres Izarra said in an e-mail sent to The Associated Press that "it's false" that Gadhafi is flying to Venezuela. He did not elaborate.

Izarra was responding to inquiries about a statement by British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who said he had seen "some information to suggest" Gadhafi was on his way to Venezuela.

Hague spoke after a meeting of European Union foreign ministers that sharply condemned Libyan authorities for their crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

But EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton dismissed Hague's comment, saying she knew nothing about it. EU officials who attended the ministerial meeting also described the report as "unfounded rumors."

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is an ally of Gadhafi.

Later Tuesday, the Venezuelan foreign ministry released a statement saying Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro was told by Libyan counterpart, Moussa Koussa, that Gadhafi was in Libya's capital "confronting the situation that's gripping the country."

The statement said that during the phone conversation, Maduro referred to "the historic friendship between the Venezuelan and Libyan people" and told Koussa that he hoped "the Libyan people, exercising their sovereignty, find a peaceful solution to their difficulties."

Maduro also condemned what the statement called "imperialist meddling" during the recent unrest in the Middle East.

The communique said Maduro and Koussa agreed "to share firsthand information regarding the evolution of the situation" in Libya.

Chavez, who shares Gadhafi's antagonistic stance toward the United States, last met with his Libyan counterpart in October during a trip to Tripoli, where officials signed economic cooperation agreements.

During his visit to Chavez received an honorary degree from Tripoli's Academy of Higher Education.

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